After years of campaigning, the 'Divorce, Dissolution and Separation' Bill concluded its passage through the House of Commons yesterday (17th June 2020), and will shortly be given Royal Assent. A number of changes to rules, procedures, and forms will be necessary after it has received Royal Assent, however, so couples should not expect to be able to divorce without assigning blame (or waiting at least 2 years) until August 2021. 

Currently, if someone wants to apply for a divorce in England and Wales, they must either spend a minimum of two years separated, or blame their spouse for the breakdown of the marriage by citing behaviour or adultery. 

The new law will allow a couple to mutually cite ‘irretrievable breakdown’ as the sole ground for wanting to obtain a divorce, either in a joint statement or in a statement from one spouse. They will not have to particularise their partner's bad behaviour. 

In a 2017 'Finding Fault' survey conducted by the Nuffield Foundation, it was found that 62% of petitioners and 78% of respondents said that in their experience, using fault had made the process more bitter. 21% of fault-respondents said fault had made it harder to sort out arrangements for children, and 31% of fault-respondents thought fault made sorting out finances harder.

As a member of Resolution, I am committed to reducing conflict and helping couples to resolve matters amicably. In my experience, the contents of the divorce petition is often contentious. Sometimes the petitioner struggles to think of examples of their spouse's 'bad' behaviour, and is reluctant to ascribe fault, but does not want to wait 2 years for a divorce. They will often say they have simply grown apart. 

The allegations are often upsetting to the respondent and can create unnecessary tension in cases where the parties had reached an amicable decision to divorce. Conflict between the parties is exacerbated, and this can have a negative impact on the parties children. This is therefore a welcome development in family law.